Mozambique News Agency
President Armando Guebuza told AIM on 27 September that he regards his greatest achievement over the past five years “the fact that I was able to begin to persuade Mozambicans that it is possible to eradicate poverty”. Speaking during an interval in his campaign for re-election, President Guebuza stressed “there is nothing great that a people can achieve without first having the faith or the conviction that success is possible”.
President Guebuza returned insistently to the lessons of Mozambique’s struggle for independence from Portuguese colonial rule. Only when nationalist leaders such as Eduardo Mondlane, the founder and first President of Frelimo, led Mozambicans to overcome the idea that they were somehow inferior to their colonial masters was it possible to fight against and bring down the colonial edifice.
“Everything starts with self-esteem”, President Guebuza stressed. “That leads us to believe that we can do things. The first great step to take so that we can defeat poverty is to believe in ourselves, and to be sure that we can eradicate it”.
On 25 September when he spoke in the small town of Chai, in the northern province of Cabo Delgado, where the first shots were fired in the independence war, President Guebuza recalled “when the struggle began, what Mozambicans really had was not guns but the will to fight to victory or to death rather than go on living under colonialism”.
In the early days Frelimo was short of weapons, he said. So much so that most of the first 250 recruits for the guerrilla army had to train with sticks, or with toy guns rather than real firearms. Before weapons flowed in from the Soviet Union or China, Frelimo also resorted to homemade hunting guns – adequate for shooting antelope, but hardly a match for the weaponry of a NATO army.
Some of these hunting guns are on display in the Chai Museum beside photographs of the initial group of fighters who dared to take up arms.
President Guebuza told AIM he saw signs that gradually Mozambicans are harvesting the fruits of the fight against poverty. He said that, after his election as Frelimo General Secretary in 2003, he began to tour the country and found that most rural dwellers had next to no purchasing power. They could scarcely clothe themselves decently or afford a pair of shoes.
“But today they are all more or less well dressed, albeit with basic clothes, and a fair number can buy other goods which are not so basic, such as bicycles or even motorbikes”, he said. “This is a clear sign that people are beginning to emerge from poverty”.
“Some people don’t want to remember this”, President Guebuza added, “and try to make us believe that Frelimo has done nothing in 34 years of independence”.
“They do everything for us not to remember that, although our independence was 34 years ago, it suffered a brutal interruption of 16 years, until 1992, when we had to restart”, he said.
President Guebuza declined to claim responsibility for all the progress since the end of the war of destabilization, for himself or even for Frelimo, stressing repeatedly that the gains made are the fruit of hard work by all Mozambicans, and what Frelimo has done is to provide leadership.
The main election promise President Guebuza makes is that he will continue this leadership role. But success in the fight against poverty will only come “with the hard work of each and every Mozambican”.
He was sure that, sooner rather than later, the day would come when Mozambicans could say “we used to be poor”, when poverty, like colonialism, will only be spoken of in the past tense.
On 28 October Mozambicans vote to elect their President, national assembly and provincial assemblies.
Afonso Dhlakama, the leader and presidential candidate of Mozambique’s main opposition party, Renamo, on 26 September threatened that the day he replies to “the children’s games” of the ruling Frelimo Party, “the country will burn”.
Speaking in Muanona, an outlying neighbourhood of the northern port of Nacala, Dhlakama repeated his claim that Frelimo had stolen last November’s municipal elections by trucking in people from outside the municipal areas who had no right to vote.
Dhlakama claimed that illicit voters had been ferried into cities from rural districts such as Memba, Nacala-a-Velha and Mossurize. The trick of moving voters from one part of the country to another would not work this time, said Dhlakama, because the general elections of 28 October cover all of Mozambique.
“So Nacala should demonstrate to these kids of Frelimo who go around tying you up that we don’t want to respond to their games. Because on the day that I do respond, all of this will burn”, he said.
“I don’t reply to crazy people, I don’t reply to children, I don’t reply to those who don’t have the support of the people, because if the ruling party had popular support, it would not have to arrest people and tie them up”, he said. Dhlakama is likely to have been referring to the arrests of 19 Renamo members in various parts of Nampula province since the election campaign started on 13 September, accused of tearing down Frelimo posters and other electoral offences.
“Why are they tying people up?” he continued. “Who is provoking whom? How many Frelimo members are sent to throw stones against me, to rip up posters, to shout insults?”
“We never beat people up or arrest them”, he continued, “but it wouldn’t cost Afonso Dhlakama anything to have the thieves of Frelimo seized and flogged, but I don’t do that because I’m a democrat”.
Dhlakama urged his audience to vote for him and for Renamo in order “to end the suffering and abuses perpetrated by Frelimo”.
“With Dhlakama all the suffering will end”, he promised. “Everything depends on you. It’s enough that you vote for Afonso Dhlakama and vote for Renamo. That’s the only way to end the abuses, injustices, unemployment and suffering caused by the communists”.
As for the policies of a Renamo government, Dhlakama said it would defend the rule of law, concentrate on agriculture, and reduce dependence on external support. “The first thing I shall do is end hunger”, he declared. “In my government in Mozambique there will be no hunger. No one will die because they didn’t have enough to eat. This happens because the economic policies of the others are bad”.
Dhlakama promised easier credit for farmers. “My government will be able to negotiate with the banks to lend money to all those who want to use it in agriculture, because agriculture is the strategic sector for development in Mozambique”.
The row between the Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) and the National Elections Commission (CNE) shows no sign of abating. In early September the CNE disqualified many proposed MDM candidates, which barred the party from this month’s elections in several constituencies.
Claims by the MDM that some of the documentation for its election candidates was stolen inside the premises of the CNE are “absolutely false”, according to CNE member Antonio Chipanga. He argues that, in reality, the MDM displayed great disorganization in the way it handled its paperwork.
The CNE ruled on 6 September that the MDM had only provided enough valid documents for its lists of candidates in four of the 13 parliamentary constituencies. The MDM appealed to the Constitutional Council, which found that the CNE was correct. In particular, it found that three dozen of the MDM candidates lacked any file of documents at all.
The MDM waited for the last possible moment to deliver its lists of candidates. In this it was not alone: 28 parties and coalitions delivered their nominations on the last day, 29 July. Only the ruling Frelimo Party handed its lists in earlier (on 28 July).
Faced with a queue of parties, it was impossible for the CNE to inspect the paper work for every candidate.
Parties were delivering lists not only for the 250 seats in the 13 parliamentary constituencies, but also for the first elections to provincial assemblies. The ten provincial elections contain a total of 812 seats. To stand for any of the constituencies or assemblies, parties must also provide supplementary reserves. Taking the reserves into account, a party that wished to stand in all constituencies and for all provincial assemblies had to provide lists with 1,507 names.
The MDM brought box-loads of documents fresh from the provinces. Chipanga suspects that, so hurried had the collection of documents been, that the MDM was not familiar with its own paper work.
Both the MDM and CNE have published letters supporting their arguments. It seems that in trying to stand not only for all parliamentary constituencies, but also for all the provincial assemblies, the MDM was extraordinarily ambitious. This is a party that was formed at a conference in March. For a party that was only just setting up its structures in provinces and districts it was a huge challenge to find over 1,500 candidates, and organise their nomination papers.
Some minor parties that did not bother with the provincial assemblies, managed to present more valid lists of parliamentary candidates than the MDM, The Mozambican Green Party (PVM), for instance, had lists approved for eight constituencies, while the completely obscure Democratic Alliance of Veterans for Development (ADACD) is standing in six constituencies.
Infant and child mortality has fallen sharply in Mozambique over the past ten years, according to the latest figures made available by the National Statistics Institute (INE).
Infant mortality (deaths before the age of one) fell from 135 per 1,000 live births in 1997 to 101 in 2003. This trend continued in the ensuing five years, but at a slower pace, and the 2008 figure was 93 infant deaths per 1,000 live births.
As for the under-five mortality rate, this fell from 201 per 1,000 live births in 1997, to 153 in 2003 and to 138 in 2008.
The 2008 figures come from a Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) intended to assess progress in reaching the anti-poverty goals expressed in the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and in the Mozambican government’s own Action Plan for the Reduction of Absolute Poverty (PARPA).
The survey, using internationally accepted methodologies, was undertaken by the INE in collaboration with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It took a random sample of 13,955 households distributed across the entire country. The comparative data from 1997 and 2003 come from the INE’s household surveys of those years.
Child mortality is falling more rapidly in the countryside than in the towns. The rural under-five mortality rate fell from 237 to 162 per 1,000 live births between 1997 and 2008. Over the same period, the urban under-five mortality rate declined from 150 to 135 per 1,000 live births. Thus the rural and urban rates are drawing closer together.
There is a sharp geographical division, with the provinces north of the Zambezia showing much worse mortality rates than the rest of the country. Zambezia province has the highest under-five mortality rate with 205 deaths per 1,000 live births, followed by Cabo Delgado with 180. Maputo city and Province have the lowest rates with 103 and 108 deaths per 1,000 live births.
Turning to the main killer diseases, MICS took the number of children suffering from fever as a surrogate for malaria. The prevalence of episodes of fever among under-fives fell from 27 to 24 per cent between 2003 and 2008. But only 23 per cent of children with fever received anti-malaria drugs within 24 hours.
65 per cent of households with under-fives said they possessed at least one mosquito net, and the number of children sleeping under mosquito nets rose dramatically, from 10 per cent in 2003 to 42 per cent in 2008.
Here too the gap between town and countryside has narrowed. In 2003 only seven per cent of rural children slept under a net. The figure reached 40 per cent in 2008, catching up on the figure of 48 per cent in the urban areas.
But the prevalence of diarrhoeal diseases has actually increased. In 2003, households reported that 14 per cent of children had suffered episodes of diarrhoeal disease, a figure that rose to 18 per cent in 2008. Less than half these children (47 per cent) received the life saving oral rehydration therapy.
The most disturbing statistic is that malnutrition remains at very high levels among Mozambican children. The number of children found to be in a state of chronic malnutrition (i.e. whose growth is stunted because they have not received sufficient calories over a lengthy period) fell by just four percentage points, from 48 per cent in 2003 to 44 per cent in 2008.
Acute malnutrition (where the child is in danger of starving to death) stayed at much the same level – five per cent in 2003 and four per cent in 2005.
Malnutrition is much worse in the north of the country than in the south – even though the northern provinces are the most fertile parts of Mozambique and rarely suffer from prolonged drought. The worst figure is from Cabo Delgado where 56 per cent of children are chronically malnourished, followed by Nampula with 51 per cent.
Maputo city is easily the most prosperous part of the country. But even so, 25 per cent of the city’s children are chronically malnourished.
Access to clean drinking water has steadily improved, but still covers less than half the population. In 2003, 36 per cent of the population had access to a safe source of water, and by 2008 the figure had reached 43 per cent. Urban clean water coverage rose from 66 to 70 per cent, while in the countryside the improvement was from 23 to 30 per cent.
The percentage of people with safe sanitation rose from 34 to 47 per cent, but this was mostly in the towns – in the countryside the rise was from four to six per cent. More encouragingly the number of people who had no sanitation at all (and so defecated in the open) fell from 51 to 42 per cent between 2003 and 2008.
A court in Pemba, capital of the northern province of Cabo Delgado, has sentenced 70 conscript soldiers to jail terms of up to 13 months for their part in a riot last July.
The conscripts had been receiving basic training at the barracks of the Mozambican Armed Forces (FADM) in the Cabo Delgado town of Montepuez. When their course did not end on time, for reasons that were not communicated to the soldiers, they ran amok in the streets of Montepuez on the night of 27 July. During the riot, the conscripts damaged a cold store belong to a local company and a vehicle of the Cabo Delgado Provincial Health Directorate, and stole goods from local stallholders.The court acquitted a further eight soldiers. Those convicted will serve their sentences in the provincial prison in Pemba.
The Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) launched in Maputo on 1 October the “Programme for Integrated Soil Management” aimed at improving production among 20,000 farmers in the fertile province of Nampula and Zambezia.
AGRA, set up in 2007 to help fight against hunger and malnutrition in Africa, is financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Rockefeller Foundation.
It is pledging to disburse $800,000 over a three-year period for the project, covering the districts of Morrupula, Malema, Ribaue and Monapo in Nampula, and Alto Molocue, in Zambezia. The project is to be implemented by the Mozambican Agricultural Research Institute (IIAM).
“With this project we intend to create conditions for the farmers to have access to good quality seeds, fertilizers, and technical assistance for them to be able to use these inputs properly”, said Ricardo Maria, of the IIAM soil fertility division.
He added that this three-year project has already started and the first results are expected in the 2009/2010 agricultural campaign.
IIAM director Calisto Bias explained that the project includes equipping his institution's soil laboratory, the training of researchers and agricultural extensionists, and funding activities directly related to soil management.
According to Bias, farmers will learn soil management, particularly to reduce dependence on inorganic fertilizers, and knowledge of crop rotation. Farmers will thus be encouraged to plant pulses, such as beans, groundnuts and cowpeas. After harvesting these crops, they will plant maize that will benefit from the nutrients left by the pulses.
“We intend to double or triple the production among the farmers. Now, for instance, they harvest 0.7 tonnes of maize per hectare, but there is a potential to harvest four, or even five tonnes per hectare”, said Maria.
AGRA soil health director Bashir Jama said that AGRA has, since 2007, been funding another project to develop different varieties of maize and sweet potatoes. Between them, the two projects are to cost about $2 million.
AGRA has chosen four countries as focal points, namely Mozambique, Tanzania, Mali and Ghana.
The Health Ministry on 25 September launched a project to allocate a basket of basic goods to patients suffering from AIDS and other chronic diseases who are facing serious nutritional problems.
According to Health Minister Ivo Garrido, the basket consists of a monthly package of three kilos of rice, nine kilos of maize flour, half a litre of vegetable oil, one kilo of sugar, one kilo of groundnuts, one kilo of salt, two kilos of beans. 3.6 kilos of fish or a substitute, 3.4 kilos of green vegetables or a substitute, and 3.6 kilos of fruit. This package is guaranteed for six months. The costs of acquiring this basket will be borne by the State Budget.
“This basket of basic goods has been established for AIDS patients undergoing anti-retroviral treatment, and for people suffering from other chronic illnesses, such as tuberculosis, who show clear signs of malnutrition”, the Minister explained. “The basket is not for everyone on anti-retroviral therapy, but only those who show a need for foodstuffs. The technical staff will determine this on the basis of established parameters”.
Each beneficiary will be entitled to the basket for six months, since it is expected that after four months undernourished patients taking anti-retroviral drugs will have recovered enough to be able to provide food for themselves.
In an initial phase, 3,500 people suffering from AIDS and other chronic diseases in Maputo and the ten provincial capitals will benefit from the scheme. But these numbers are expected to grow as new patients enter the scheme, and as from January it will be extended to all 128 districts.
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